Have you ever wondered, “Why does my dog follow me and not my husband?” There are multiple reasons this could be happening, but a lot of it boils down to separation anxiety.
In 2017, Americans owned 89.7 millions dogs. But, out of all of those furry friends, 14 to 20% of dogs show signs of separation anxiety. That means over 12 million dogs in America suffer from it!
Dogs with separation anxiety exhibit various behavioral problems. Following is a symptom, but just following alone does not mean your dog has separation anxiety.
Other behavioral problems to look for can include:
- Tail chasing
- Prolonged staring
- Self biting
- Fear of thunder or fireworks
- Fear of strangers
- Aggression toward strangers or family members
- Excessive barking or panting
- Licking objects and surfaces
- Uncontrollable digging
- Door scratching
Not every dog will check every box. In fact, different breeds will show different symptoms.
For example, border collies with separation anxiety tend to intensely stare and chase.
They aren’t likely to show signs of aggression toward people like how Miniature Schnauzers with separation anxiety are prone to do. But you won’t find these small dogs oddly staring at you or pursuing the next furry animal that comes their way.
So, if your Miniature Schnauzer follows you around and growls or snaps at your husband, you can now understand the reasoning behind it all.
Don’t feel as if you are a bad dog parent. Your dog is suffering from a common problem. The breed is simply predisposed to aggression when suffering from anxiety.
No matter what symptoms your dog has, separation anxiety is fixable.
You might find your dog simply loves following you and doesn’t show any other major signs of separation anxiety.
Clingy dogs are also known as Velcro dogs, seeing as they like to stick to you like Velcro. Not all Velcro dogs have separation anxiety, but some do. Always be on the lookout for symptoms and correct the problems before they snowball.
Common Velcro breeds include:
- Golden Retriever
All dogs can develop separation anxiety. However, certain breeds are more likely to suffer from it than others.
Common small breeds with separation anxiety issues include:
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Bichon Frise
- Cocker Spaniels
- Basset Hounds
- Toy Poodle
- Jack Russel Terrier
- Yorkshire Terrier
Common larger breeds with separation anxiety issues include:
- Border Collie
- German Shepherd
- Labrador Retriever
- Australian Shepard
Even if your dog isn’t a natural clinger, their past can play a large role in how closely they follow you and your husband around.
Did you rescue your dog from the pound, a bad home, or off the streets?
Dogs will always remember that you and your husband saved them from a life of misery.
This association is likely the case if you are home more often or you undertake various home-based tasks all the time.
The relationship between man and dog goes back 20,000 years ago. Dogs helped our ancestors to hunt food, herd farm animals, and transport goods.
They still do that today, and find bombs and detect drugs and guard us. Our relationship with dogs has grown into something more than simply a work-related partnership.
They are furry animals and love attention.
We love furry animals and also love attention.
Dogs have become our family members. We have become a part of their packs.
Now, in the 21st century, they sit in our homes and cuddle up with us on our couches and beds. We feed them food they probably shouldn’t have. Some of us even groom our dogs better than we groom ourselves!
Dogs notice how much love and affection we give them. They’ll follow the person who gives them the most amount of the endearment. Your dog may believe that person is you, not your husband.
Big dogs and small dogs are both prone to want more affection than necessary. There is a difference in what is actually happening though.
Big dogs have a tremendous amount of energy- not unlike toddlers!
If these dogs don’t have a sufficient outlet, then they will always seek your attention.
Perhaps your dog’s favorite toy rolled underneath the bed and he can’t get to it. Your husband may ignore your dog’s cries. So, instead it turns to you and follows you until you find its ball underneath the bed!
Since big dogs are very curious, they may follow you around to watch you. They find what you are doing is fascinating to them. They are like toddlers following you and inspecting your every move without a care in the world what you are actually doing.
Big dogs love owners who give them a sense of belonging and curiosity. It’s okay if your dog chose you, not your husband, in order to meet these needs.
Small dogs are routinely pampered like babies. They are small and don’t weigh a lot. They usually sit in someone’s lap, and sometimes, end up in bags or purses to secretly travel with their owners.
Your attention may come in the form of cuddling and affection for hours on end.
In comparison, your husband’s attention may come in the form of walking and playing with your dog for an hour.
While fun activities are necessary for your dog’s health, small dogs love to cuddle. They will typically stick by their cuddle buddy’s side until they are forced away. Typically, their cuddle buddy mutually agrees to this behavior though.
You may have bribed your dog to follow you. You should ask yourself, “What does my dog get by following me?”
The answer could take form in affection, treats, or playtime. You get up, your dog gets up; you start walking away, your dog starts walking away with you; then you eventually stop walking and you give him a treat. It’s that simple in his mind.
Can you really blame your dog if has noticed this pattern?
In comparison, your husband gets up, your dog gets up; your husband starts walking away, your dog starts walking away with him; and then he stops walking and ignores your dog. Your dog just gained nothing from following your husband; therefore, your dog stops following him.
If your dog doesn’t feel as if you or your family are paying him enough attention, he might decide to follow you around.
Not all owners may realize their dog isn’t getting enough attention. Your pup isn’t going to understand that you’re too busy to cuddle, or that you’ve had a long day and don’t feel like playing fetch.
Of course, when you do show affection, some breeds with separation anxiety might show signs of aggression or fear. For instance, a shelter dog that was previously abused may crave affection, but be unsure how to receive it.
Depending on the severity of the problem, you can always book a consultation with a dog specialist and discuss the situation. You may pleasantly find out how easily you can solve this issue.
If you are wondering, “What if my husband shows more affection than me, but my dog still only follows me around?”
Answer the following questions:
● Who fills your dog’s food and water bowls?
● Who grooms your dog?
● Who goes on walks with your dog?
● Who plays with your dog?
Some dogs choose to follow their primary caregiver around or trained to follow and alert for panic attacks.
If you answered most, if not all, questions with a “me!” response, then this is why your dog follows you.
Your dog knows who is repeatedly doing these tasks. You might need to put food in his bowl, or to throw his toy across the yard for him. He is asking you because you are the one who typically does these tasks for him- and he sure does appreciate it.
Dog owners affect their pet’s personality, for better or for worse.
For example, dog owners who score higher on the attachment avoidance scale may unknowingly increase their dog’s separation anxiety.
This tidbit is only a problem if your dog is following you because he is already suffering from separation anxiety. Check the above “Dog with Anxiety Issues” section for more information.
For full disclosure, at least in adult relationships, women are slightly more likely to score higher on the attachment avoidance scale.
However, that doesn’t mean that the question is, “Does my husband have attachment avoidance?” Only a psychologist can officially identify someone’s personality tendencies.
People with attachment avoidance are often dismissive. The problem is ultimately the dismissive attitude, not the attachment style itself. So, the real question is this: “Is my husband dismissive of my dog?”
Consider sitting down and talking to your husband. Ask him about his dismissive behavior toward your dog. A dog specialist can redirect unwanted behaviors from your husband and your dog.
Active and outgoing people tend to also have active and outgoing dogs.
If your husband is more reserved and your dog is more interested in following you, that’s okay. Your husband can bring other positive traits to your family dynamic.
The Harvard Kennedy School reports males exhibit higher frequencies of assertive behavior than females. Your husband can use his assertiveness to demand a little bit more respect and insert a very much needed disciplinary system for your dog to follow.
So, why does my dog follow me and not my husband?
And how can I change this behavior?
Well, training is key to changing your dog’s behavior. There isn’t any other way around it. Some people learn from YouTube videos and others seek professional help.
Is your dog constantly following you everywhere you go, including the bathroom? If the answer is yes, then you need to train your dog to stop following you.
Does your dog show signs of separation anxiety? If the answer is yes, then you need to train your dog to stop following you.
Does your dog follow you when he is hungry or is built up with energy from lack of exercise? If the answer is yes, then you don’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) train your dog to stop following you.
Your dog’s only form of language is through his actions. You want to put a stop to excessive behavior, not behavior that communicates your dog’s needs.
Teaching your dog to stay requires a lot of patience from both you and your dog. Your goal is to tell him to stay until you tell him to come.
Tell him to sit and wait a few seconds before giving the treat. Continuously extend the time. When you’re able to get to 60 seconds, start taking a step back. Once he is good about you walking around him, then you can start hiding behind walls.
Eventually you can turn this training into a “Find It” game.
Use the same premise that you used for the command “Stay”.
Tell him to sit behind the gate and give him a treat. If he barks and whines, wait until he stops.
Once he stops, walk up to him and give him a treat. Expect to spend at least 30 to 60 minutes each training session on this alone. After several training sessions, you should see a big difference in his behavior.
Elderly people may want to train their dogs to follow them to provide comfort or help in case of an emergency.
For better or worse, the simplest way for your husband to get your dog to follow him is through simple, old-fashioned bribery.
Have your husband carry around your dog’s favorite treat or toy and walk around with it. Your dog will eventually start following him around in pure anticipation- without any treats or bribing involved.
So if you have ever wondered, “Why does my dog follow me, and not my husband?”, you will have learnt that there are a variety of reasons as to why this may be the case.
It could be due to the fact that the breed of your pup is naturally inclined to be more clingy or prone to separation anxiety.
Alternatively, it could come down to factors like the bond you have with your dog, its past history, previously learnt behaviors, or its recognition of you as the primary caregiver. It could even be that you or your husband have personalities that naturally attract your dog- or drive it away!
Whether this behavior is harmful is up to you to determine. If your dog follows you around to communicate a need, such as that it is hungry or wants to go outside, then that can be considered to be beneficial.
However, if your dog follows you everywhere and never lets you out of its sight due to separation anxiety, it may be a good idea to curb the tendency as much as possible. This can be achieved through training and desensitization- a trip to a canine behaviorist may be handy.
If you want your dog to start following your husband instead, there is a simple trick: Have him carry all of the treats!
Elena Gherman is a highly skilled and knowledgeable animal care expert. At the start of her career, she gained practical expertise with multiple animals. In addition to that, she works as a DVM veterinary editor for Joy Pet Products, which focuses on offering reliable information on pet health and wellbeing. She meticulously reviews each piece of writing before it is published to make sure pet owners get the most precise and updated information possible.